Reenactors take pleasure in imagining and reenacting certain eras and marveling over the culture and extents of interaction within those societies. For these people, whether they are military or civilian, pouring over the smallest details and making sure that their reenactments are accurate are their main objectives.
Reenactors have moments of perfection—an elusive instant where everything works just as they want it to be. They call this sensation “the bubble”, or the “magic”. Every detail, from the sounds, smell, to the feel, make it seem like you are transported to that era and removed from modern society. This sensation, once experienced, makes you yearn for more.
Personally, as part of a group of reenactors, these moments are few and far between. After a decade of reenacting, I haven’t been able to actively participate in these events anymore. Instead, I subject myself to the craft by way of reading good historical novels. I also have a hand in writing historical fiction. This hobby-turned-career gives me the chance to dwell in the world of reenactors. My latest novel, Hearts of Stone, came from a Civil War refugee camp scenario at an event in Tennessee. One of those “bubble” moments gave me a spark of imagination.
Why Reenactors Have Immense Potential in Writing
You might be wondering what sets them apart from other potential writers. You may also inquire about the possibility of writing a book of your own. The truth is, the nature of the work of reenactors is the reason why they are well poised to write historical fiction.
Being part of a group means that you have already submerged yourself into the history and social fabric of the period you’ve chosen. This implies that you know many details concerning the period—from the material culture, the historical process, the sequence of events, to the laws and policies of the time. You’re an experienced researcher of the history, and you always seek to know more. As reenactors, you and your peers also know how stories are written, made, and played. Overall, the depth of your understanding of the culture makes you breathe life into every scenario that you imagine.
If you want to know more about the possibility of writing historical fiction, here are a few suggestions that could help you.
· Visualize a fresh idea
Once you think of a storyline, look for other stories that might have the same content. The reason why many books fail is because the storyline that they develop have been exhausted so many times.
· Focus on your writing
Once you have an idea of what you want to write, focus on writing your story. Don’t think about looking for agents or searching for a publishing house right away. This distracts you from building characters and scenarios without bias. Try to enjoy as you write. You can even attend some classes.
· Create a compelling main character
The best kind of fiction is character driven, which means that you must build your characters intricately. Develop a complete history for your characters. Write about their likes, dislikes, interests, quirks, and dreams. Building a multi-layered character gives you an interesting, believable, and complex lead.
· Shape your plot
After building your characters, you may now shape the plot of your story. Think about the struggles that you want your characters to face, and the goals that you want them to have. The points of struggle and the defeat or triumph that follows are what makes or breaks the characters of your book.
Some stories have one clear plotline. Some novels have interwoven plotlines that make it more complex. Basically, there are “inner” and “outer” struggles that characters face. In Hearts of Stone, the outer plot of my main character involves her struggle to keep her family intact after she and her younger siblings become orphaned and homeless. Her inner struggle involves her emotional struggle in accepting her father’s decision to fight for the Union Army and her best friend’s support of the Confederacy.
· Organize your story
Some writers make outlines for their story, some do not. Whichever you choose, employ a strategy that would help you keep track of your story efficiently. Personally, although I don’t outline, I have a graphic organizer. I make a table with four headings across the top: Chapter, Date, Scenes, and Historical Events. This graphic organizer helps me know what my characters are doing at which time and date, and how their storylines mesh with the actual timeline of events that form the backdrop for my story.
· Keep on researching
As reenactors, we already know that in order for a scene to work, accuracy is needed. The same could be said for writing novels. The details and events that serve as the backdrop of your story can be used for many things, like character development and plot revelations. Therefore, continue to research on the social interactions or other unique events during those times. The more you know about the era, the more materials you can utilize for your story.
· Decide the level of your novel’s historical accuracy
When writing a historical novel, you must decide where to draw the line on historical accuracy. Some writers prefer to embellish the story with added details, like making up the weather, making new businesses, or including new merchants in particular towns. However, other people want it to be as precise as possible. As reenactors, we are often fanatical about maintaining the accuracy of our era. It is therefore best to know if you’re willing to change some facts in order to fit your story into the era.
· Keep a journal when you are at reenacting events
Keep track of certain details, like the smell, the feel, or the energy around a scene. When you are watching reenactments, observe the actions and the way the reenactors interact. These can be added to improve your story and bring your fiction to life.
· Read as many primary accounts as possible
Submerging yourself in period literature will help you understand and impart the kind of language and speech that is most appropriate for your audience. This makes your writing appear more legitimate and accurate.
· Join a professional writers’ organization
Joining this kind of organization will help you know more about the process of writing and publishing. Even though memberships to these organizations have can cost you, their input on your novel and the knowledge they impart can help you immensely. If you want to be with other reenactors, or want to meet other history buffs, then you can join the Historical Novel Society. It is an umbrella group for all historical fiction writers. There are other genre-specific groups for other people. Finding the right one for you will help towards your quest to find professional success.
Share your passion with fellow reenactors and other people
After you’re done writing your novel, you have several options for publishing. You can self-publish, or get a book contract from major publishers. Either way, learning about the industry is a must. Knowing what makes a successful book will make you transform into an even better writer.
For reenactors, acting, writing, and building stories are what binds us together. Through the process of writing your own novels, they will have the opportunity to show other people just how interesting history is. Once you’ve successfully published and publicized your story, the joy and the experience of living in those eras will be experienced by many.
Publishing your book is an amazing experience. If told that I’d never be published again, I wouldn’t stop writing stories at all. Building an intricate and complex world with multilayered characters is a feeling that should resonate with many reenactors. By writing and publishing, the “bubble” can be felt not just by us, but by others as well. I hope that others find the magic that I have found in writing as well.